Marvel Studios is gearing up for the home video release of their third most successful film to date in Thor: The Dark World and the timing works out well since they're in the middle of promoting the next film on the slate, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That's the beauty of the studio's two-films-per-year model - there's always something hitting theaters, something hitting video, all the while expanding into other mediums (see: Netflix Marvel TV shows).
For every film coming out, fans are looking half a dozen projects ahead. That's the nature of the beast when expectations and hype are at a fever pitch and when all of the Marvel Studios films and TV shows are connected in one, large, growing universe, with Easter eggs and cameos hinting at more. That universe gets exponentially bigger this August when new property Guardians of the Galaxy brings moviegoers into the cosmic section of the Marvel Comics library. Guardians may arguably be the Disney and Marvel's most ambitious and risky project yet, so does it make sense for them to plan a sequel already?
According to a source of JoBlo, that's exactly what they're doing. It's no secret that to join the Marvel Studios family, talent must dedicate their future with a lengthy multi-picture deal. That's what all of the stars of Guardians of the Galaxy did and sequels are obviously a part of the plan. If there wasn't a future for these characters, the film wouldn't have been greenlit in the first place. Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has repeatedly said they have tentative plans dating up towards 2021 and the Guardians are a big part of that.
As for the immediate future, The Avengers: Age of Ultron closes out 'Phase 2' of the Marvel Cinematic Universe next May. Two months later, Edgar Wright's Ant-Man kicks off Phase 3. After that, Disney and Marvel Studios secured three summer release dates in 2016-17 for unannounced titles that we don't expect to learn more about until Comic-Con.
What we do know is that the plan is to use the first of each annual pair of Marvel movie release dates for an established property (a sequel) and build off the buzz to help launch a new IP in the second date. This year, Cap 2 precedes the introduction of the Guardians. Next year, Avengers 2 opens the door for Ant-Man. So the big question is, which sequels get the May 2016 and May 2017 dates?
The safest educated guess puts Thor 3 in May 2016 and Captain America 3 in May 2017, but with more and more characters on the way that doesn't necessarily need to be the plan. Stars Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth only have so many pictures left on their contracts after The Avengers: Age of Ultron so perhaps it makes better business sense to keep them around longer and save their (or at least one of their) third solo movies until after The Avengers 3 - which is expected to debut in May 2018.
JoBlo reports that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is taking the May 2016 date - a date that recently was invaded by Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment's massive Batman vs Superman project. They cite (and confirm) the recent rumors of a Guardians of the Galaxy animated series debuting fall 2015 which comes as no surprise given the attention the team has been getting in the comics ever since the film became a reality.
If true, this raises some interesting questions about what new properties Marvel and their president of production Kevin Feige plan to introduce in Phase 3. The most talked about candidates from Feige include Doctor Strange - which he unofficially confirmed as a Phase 3 film already - and The Inhumans. The latter however, we believed could double as a sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy but that doesn't seem to be the case based on this latest report.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
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